The Goliath Bone in Paperback

July 7th, 2009 by Max Allan Collins

The Goliath Bone

THE GOLIATH BONE, the first of the Mike Hammer novels I’m completing from Mickey Spillane’s unfinished manuscripts (and notes), is just out in trade paperback from Harcourt. The cover is the same as last year’s hardcover, but it’s slightly smaller, taking my “with Max Allan Collins” byline from tiny to microscopic. Magnifying glass sold separately.

I loved doing this book, which is chronologically the final Hammer. Mickey was working on it at the time of his death in 2006, and asked me to complete it just days before he passed; around the same time he told his wife Jane that there would be a “treasure hunt” after he was gone, and to “give everything to Max — he’ll know what to do.” I don’t know if I’m prouder of anything in my career than having Mickey express that vote of confidence.

The novel was very well received, with several reviewers (including one by Thomas McNulty in the excellent fanzine The Mystery News) calling it “the best book of the year.” Kevin Burton Smith of Thrilling Detective website fame did a really nice review/article in Mystery Scene, and Bookgasm was glowing (great review web site, who called THE FIRST QUARRY the best novel of 2008). Some reviewers (and readers at Amazon, for one online source) complained that Hammer wasn’t the man of ONE LONELY NIGHT, which is among the dumbest comments I’ve read in any review (and not just of my books). I mean, Mickey stopped writing about the young psycho Hammer in 1952, and the subsequent Hammer novels from THE GIRL HUNTERS through BLACK ALLEY were about a post-crazed Hammer (both those novels are about a weakened Hammer having to bluff his way on his old reputation). Several reviewers bitched about “constant” references to Hammer’s age in THE GOLIATH BONE, when there are probably about half a dozen such references at most. A few did the math and decided it was unrealistic for Hammer to still be around fighting Al Qaeda, to whom I ask: at what point did you decide Mickey Spillane was doing “realism”?

The novel is designed to be that rarity — like THE REMORSEFUL DAY, CURTAIN and THE LAST QUARRY — a final novel in a series. Let me go on record about reviewers professional, semi-pro and amateur: if you review a novel on your terms and not the author’s, then stop writing reviews and write your own damn book (to paraphrase Lloyd Kaufman).

Mickey Spillane

The second of the Spillane/Collins Hammer novels, THE BIG BANG, will be out in the Spring of 2010. I got an even bigger bang (deal with it) out of this one, as it was a 1964 manuscript and is really vintage Hammer, probably tougher and sexier than any of the Hammer novels Mickey completed and published in the 1960s. It has hippie chicks and LSD and Mafiosi and is pure Swinging Sixties. The next one, KISS HER GOODBYE, is a ’70s Hammer that I’ll be doing late this year for 2011 publication. That will conclude the current contract, but there are three more substantial Hammer manuscripts — including one from 1948! — that I hope to complete as well. There’s also a sequel to THE DELTA FACTOR that may be done for Hard Case Crime.

Some may recall that KING OF THE WEEDS has been mentioned as one of the first batch of Hammers. That novel is another one about the older Hammer, and I decided to move it to the last position among the six unfinished novels, because I believe GOLIATH BONE and KING OF THE WEEDS will bookend nicely.

On a different note, I hope you’ll support the film PUBLIC ENEMIES, which is Michael Mann’s very good take on the Dillinger story. I have a typically selfish agenda here, because if this movie is popular, any number of my projects (the ROAD TO PURGATORY film in particular) will benefit. Interestingly, PUBLIC ENEMIES has a fair amount of Frank Nitti material — which I frankly (sorry) don’t think would be the case if not for the film of ROAD TO PERDITION. Similarly, the fine nonfiction book that spawned Mann’s film explored theories and information first developed by me and my research associate George Hagenauer for TRUE CRIME and for our infamous trading card series that was later collected in another book called TRUE CRIME. Though I really admire the book PUBLIC ENEMIES, I am not mentioning the author’s name. He didn’t mention mine or George’s in his bibliography, so — in the true Mike Hammer spirit — I’m getting even, a little.


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